A note on giving up.

It’s okay. Really it is. Set it aside, take a walk. Go somewhere new; get a cup of coffee. Do some yoga, or scream a little. Writing can be such a pain in the ass, you deserve to take give up for a little while. Or a month. Or a year. Or a few years.

Writing, if anything, is a roller-coaster. It’s moments of ebullient joy cut short by self-doubt and skepticism. It’s dark and light, brilliance and idiocy, utter bliss and deepest despair. And, it seems, such contradictions don’t go away, not with success or fame or age or time. Writers both in the glow of youth and the pallor of age experience the stress of creation, few without the struggle.

Writing. Is. Work. It can be enjoyable work, and even rewarding work. But success and accomplishment only come at the expense of time. If you don’t make time, if you can’t sacrifice lots of crap you thought you had to live with, you’re not going to manage. You just aren’t.

I don’t mean this to be melancholy or discouraging. But sometimes you do just have to walk away. Some projects aren’t going to work, no matter what you do; sometimes the timing is wrong. You can push through, but will you be happy? It doesn’t matter how much time you’ve put into it, if working on it is absolute suffering, and suffering without resolve or resolution, then you need to move on.

See, writers, we’re not the heroes of our stories. We can’t go on against all odds.We don’t have magic swords, or special powers. We’re just people, and occasionally cutting your losses and getting the hell on with your life (and other writing) is necessary.

But it’s not the end of the road; not for you, not even necessarily for your work. The reason I’m going on about this is that I’ve recently picked up a project that I started ten years ago. It was the first book I ever wrote from beginning to end, and also the first book I edited in a complete rewrite. And a month ago, if you had asked me about it, I would have laughed. I often referred to the book as something dead…

Why had I put the book away? For a few reasons. When I was writing it originally, I was growing too fast as a writer. By the time I finished the book, the first half was like someone else had written it. Editing tired me out. Parts of the book never melded, felt too juvenile, uncreative. Though it’s the fantasy genre, every time I read a book that had similar elements, I’d get down on myself. I let it discourage me instead of challenge me.

Most importantly there was a central problem I couldn’t resolve and, really, it was because I was not yet brave enough to do something within the narrative. It was not a choice I anticipated earlier, but something that I suddenly understood just a week or so ago.

In the last few days I’ve been hammering out the first chapter (again… my husband chuckled when I told him I was working on it again, and he said: “What, isn’t this the fourth rewrite?” – um, more like sixth. Or seventh? I have lots of drafts). And you know what? Now is the time. According to my defunct LiveJournal, sometime around late 2005 or early 2006 I stopped working on Peter of Windbourne. And you know what happened?

I stopped writing altogether.

Don’t. Let. This. Happen.

Once I got my brain back together (I did have a pregnancy in the middle of that… so, I have somewhat of an excuse) I never went back to PoW. I wrote new things. Three books, which hey, I’m not complaining about. I only regret the period of about a year where nothing happened (mostly the void of 2007). 2008 was the best writing year of my life. Even better than ’95, when I tried to rewrite the entirety of The Stand.

My meandering point? Just because you give up, doesn’t mean you can’t go back later. In fact, sometimes, it’s a much better idea. Oh, I’m not celebrating yet. I’m rewriting the whole book again (again?! part of my brain is currently laughing maniacally). A blind rewrite. With just my memories of the book, and the characters that I’ve spent so much time with. But it’s better. I can tell, already, that it’s better.

Thankfully, I gave up for a while because I’m ready for the challenge now.

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8 Comments on “A note on giving up.

  1. I’ve done the stop writing all together thing. In fact, I spent about 4 years not writing before getting back into it. I think it’s natural, part of growing as a writer…or something like that, I think.

    BTW, Peter of Windborne sounds awesome 🙂

    • @Paul Yeah, we all have ebbs and flows. But I think for a lot of writers, we have to hit a point where we get it, where we decide to do the work, too. Sometimes it takes a few years of kicking around.

      Glad you like the sound of it. I’m still trying to make it stop rattling in my brain, and dusting off all the cobwebs. 🙂

  2. This was a very encouraging post, thank you! I’m returning to a novel after a six month break and am still trying to figure out how to tie it all together. I hope that the time away will help, but it’s early days yet. I’m very glad that your rewriting is going well and hope it continues to do so 🙂

    • @Helen Glad that it was encouraging! I think we writers often labor in the dark, and forget that we share a common creative process. Writing is not easy, but it can be very rewarding. Best of luck to you!

  3. Yeah am prepping Midnight to shop – and omg. :dies: I’ve grown so much (overall) since I wrote this and shelved it that I hardly recognized it. :/ It’s ended up getting a complete overhaul…Is going out to the last reader over the weekend. :bites nails.

    • @Mari I am trying, and failing, to teach myself to edit without the demolition. I just can’t seem to. I try, but I want to rewrite everything… which, yeah. Maybe I’ll learn eventually? It is exhausting!

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